August 29, 2016

Sequoia PTSA's weekly eNewsletter in partnership with the Sequoia High School Education Foundation
Principal's Message
When people find out what I do -- parents of my daughter's schoolmates, for example -- the floodgates open for questions and opinions about what makes schools work and how to fix the ones that don't.  It's understandable that this is an area of high interest for parents (we've all got kids) and that opinions are strong (we all went to school).  

When pressed, one thing I share is that the best way to get a sense of a school's effectiveness is to ignore school-wide test results/rankings (API, AYP, GreatSchools, e.g.).  These numbers mostly reflect the demographics of a school.  The more affluent the students and families, the higher the aggregate achievement.  Instead, I encourage my friends to dig deeper and see how students who traditionally underperform (English-learners, socio-economically disadvantaged students, students with special needs, e.g.) do at a school.  

If those students outperform state or national achievement numbers, as well as other measurables such as graduation rates, AP/IB participation rates, or attendance rates, it's a strong indicator that the teachers at that school are exceptional.  Having great teachers benefits all kids.  If you can make above-average gains with students who underperform in most schools, you make above-average gains with all kids.

There is another measure of a school's strength that is harder to quantify: its diversity.  Increasingly, research is demonstrating the diversity of a school is a significant factor in preparing young people for success in the 21st Century.   

Paul Tough's book How Children Succeed identifies curiosity, flexible thinking, empathy, and resilience as key to success for young people to develop.  Diverse classrooms foster the development of these abilities.  Loyola Law Professor Robert Garda groups these skills, along with collaborative problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication, under the umbrella of what he calls "cross-cultural competence," a term he coined through research with Fortune 500 companies.  According to Garda, "Their arguments are essentially, 'We want to hire kids that have been exposed to a wide variety of ideas. We want to hire kids that are comfortable working in a multi-racial workplace, selling products to a multi-racial market and dealing with business partners with a global scale.'"

When, in our mission statement, we state that "Sequoia High School will provide a stimulating and caring community that encourages respect for diversity...", this is what we're aiming at.  We believe the diversity of the Sequoia community is one of our greatest advantages as a school.

While most people acknowledge the value of diversity in the learning environment, there is a misconception which often accompanies these types of discussions.  Implicit and explicit, I've heard many times the concern that kids who traditionally outperform academically (socio-economically advantaged, e.g.) suffer in some way when their school or class is comprised of a broader representation of diverse subgroups.  In other words, I want traditionally underrepresented groups to be successful so long as they don't slow down my child.

There is little evidence this is a real phenomenon.  Remember, great teachers make gains with all kids.  In fact, since 2007 Harvard Professors Susan Eaton and Gina Chirichigno have been compiling research and data demonstrating the academic gains to be made for ALL students in ethnically and socio-economically diverse educational settings.  Their One Nation Indivisible project is quite impressive and worth a look.  

Increasing one's "cross-cultural competence" is challenging work -- for teachers and students.  It requires the grace and finesse in the facilitation of difficult conversations.  It reveals unconscious biases.  It means making content culturally relevant and the means of assessment equitable.  It's also what drives our mission and inspires great teachers to want to work at Sequoia.

I hope you'll want to participate in the development of your child's cross-cultural competence while they are students at Sequoia.  Diversity is one of our greatest advantages as a school and open minds and hearts, empathy, and the recognition of our differences as collaborative assets is as important as anything else they'll learn in adolescence.  

Looking forward to seeing everyone at Back to School night this Thursday. Have a great week!


Back-to-School Night This Thursday
Come at 6:30 PM to hear the band and orchestra, and to visit Sequoia's clubs and organizations in the main hall.  Don't forget to swing by the PTSA table to find out about membership and the PTSA in general.

Beginning at 7 PM, you will follow your child's schedule of classes.  Be sure to bring a copy of your student's schedule with you!

Note that Friday will be a MINIMUM DAY schedule.

Junior IB Diploma Sign-Up Deadline - September 15th
In order to sign up for the Diploma, students must submit their CAS Activity Plan to the IB Office in Room #141 by September 15th. (This was distributed and discussed in our 10th grade May CAS/IB Diploma meeting last school year.) If your student has questions about CAS, have the student come directly to see Ms. McCahon or Ms. Patience in the IB office. There are no exceptions to this deadline.

Help Treat Our Teachers to Breakfast
Thank you to those who have signed up to help with the Coffee Cart for teachers this Friday, Sept. 2, the morning after Back-to-School Night. We still need more people to sign up to help with set-up (7:15-8:30 AM) and supplying food items such as:

> grapes, apples

> hard-boiled eggs

> mini-bagels

> greek yogurts

Thank you to Jennifer DiGrande for being our Hospitality Committee Chair, organizing this Coffee Cart as well as the Staff Appreciation Lunch on August 15!  Also thank you to Katie Hultgren whose name was inadvertently omitted from the thank you list last week for the Staff Appreciation Lunch.

Principal's Welcome Tuesday, Sept. 6
Save the date for our annual Principal's Welcome next Tuesday, September 6 at 7 PM in the Multi-Purpose Room.  Hear Principal Sean Priest speak, followed by a question & answer time.  Also, meet other Sequoia parents and find out more about PTSA activities; it's a great way to start off the year!

Love Bags For Sale
From shopping bags to lunch bags, totes, backpacks and more, these reusable Love Bags make great gifts for yourself or others!  This fundraiser for the Class of 2017 Safe & Sober Grad Week is active now -- go to and use code 5ZF16 or see this flyer for details. We get a 40% return on all orders; thank you for supporting our grad week activities!  

Thank You Parent Volunteers!
The first two weeks have been busy with lots of activities, and we are grateful for all those who have pitched in time to help! Thank you to those who helped with:

Textbook check-out in the Library: Christy Martin, Scarlett Mineta, Nanci Conniff, Julie Snyder, Lauren Pachkowski, Torri Horowitz, Judy Adams, Sybille Smith, Karin Culverhouse, Patricia Eisenberg, Grace Mizutani, Carolyn Arbuckle, Isabelle Dumazet, Beatrice Carrot, Mila Paul, Jena Bloomquist, Grace Schulz, Gayle Hoch, Sian Davies, Dorith Dooley and Lisa Hane

School Photos on Aug. 25-26: Laura Nibbi, Mike Feddock, Grace Mizutani, Patricia O'Connor, Carolyn Arbuckle, Beth Robertson, Dina Acreman, Janet Braisted, Hilary Paulson, Susie Gilbert, Jayne Sungail, Meredith Armienti, Grace Schulz, Lee Forrester, Lisa Hane

Long-Lasting Sequoia Pride
The wonderful community your students experience at Sequoia results in long-lasting ties that extend far beyond their time here. One example of this is in the Fried family.  

Shown here are siblings Pat Fried Orner (class of 1961) and John Fried (class of 1959) when they visited campus last spring.  They previously donated this tree to our campus's Veterans Memorial area in honor of their mother Marjorie Cook Fried ('37) and grand-mother Alice Twombly Cook ('14).  Their family has a long history in Redwood City, including days when Alice worked for the Chamber of Commerce!
John sent us this photo after seeing a Sentinel issue online at his home in Florida.  Pat, who lives in Sacramento, was able to attend the Sequoia High School Alumni Association Picnic on Aug. 20 where her class celebrated their 55th reunion.  We love seeing and hearing from our dedicated alumni!
In This Issue
Monday, August 29
Collab Day

Thursday, Sept. 1
6:30 PM - Back-to-School Night

Friday, Sept. 2

Monday, Sept. 5
No school, Labor Day

Tuesday, Sept. 6
7 PM - Principal's Welcome, Multi-Purpose Room

Wednesday, Sept. 7
6 PM - 12th Grade College and IB Info Night, Carrington Hall

Thursday, Sept. 15
Deadline for Junior IB Diploma sign-up (submit CAS Activity Plan to IB Office)

Friday, Sept. 16
Lunchtime - Club Day

Monday, Sept. 19
No school, Staff Professional Development

Thursday, Sept. 22
7 PM - Sequoia Parent Education, "Distracted Driving Workshop," Carrington Hall

Saturday, Sept. 24

Wednesday, Sept. 28
6 PM - 11th Grade College and IB Info Night, Carrington Hall

Thursday, Sept. 29
Photo re-takes

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En Español
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Parent Education
Sequoia Parent Education Series
Impact Teen Drivers - Distracted Driving Workshop 
Kelly Browning, PhD, Executive Director, Impact Teen Drivers
Thursday, September 22, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Sequoia High School, Carrington Hall 

Back by popular demand!  Automobile collisions are the #1 cause of death for our nation's teens. The overwhelming majority of crashes are caused by inexperience or distractions, not "thrill-seeking" or deliberate risk-taking. This is a don't-miss presentation for parents, teens, and families!
Since 2007, Impact Teen Drivers has emerged as a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing the pervasive yet 100% preventable crisis of "distracted driving." Impact's mission is to change the culture of teen driving, thereby saving lives in this and future generations of drivers. 
Parents, students, faculty/staff and community members welcome! Free admission. Simultaneous Spanish interpretation will be available.
Sequoia Parent Education Series events are sponsored by the SHSEF, the Sequoia Healthcare District, and the Sequoia Union High School District.
Questions? Contact Charlene Margot, M.A., Founding Director, The Parent Education Series, at or 650-868-0590. For Spanish, contact Mayela Ramirez, Parent Center Coordinator, 650-367-9780, Ext. 63105

Community News
Outlet Program: Services for LGBTQIA+ Students
Outlet, which is run through Adolescent Counseling Services of Redwood City, is a youth-centered program that creates space for LGBTQIA+ identified youth to come together, socialize, talk about issues that they are facing at school, work, at home or in everyday life and create community. We run a number of support groups throughout San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.  

  • Monday Night Group (ages 10-18)  from 6 to 7:30PM -- Mountain View, CA
  • Youth Hangout (Ages 10-25) -- Tuesday evening Drop-In Hours from 4 to 7:00PM -- Redwood City, CA
  • Trans Group (ages 10-18) 1st and 3rd Wednesday from 6 to 7:30PM -- Redwood City, CA
  • San Mateo Group (ages 10-18) 2nd and 4th Thursday from 6:30 to 8PM -- San Mateo, CA
  • De Ambiente (Spanish-speaking youth ages 10-25) 1st and 3rd Friday from 6 to 9PM -- Mountain View, CA

  • For more information on these groups and other services such as educational workshops, consultations and resource referrals, see this flyer or visit their website.